The Private-Intelligence Boom, by the Numbers

The case of Edward Snowden highlights America's increasing reliance on contractors.

| Thu Jun. 13, 2013 6:40 AM EDT

Edward Snowden revealed to the world the startling breadth of the National Security Agency's surveillance efforts, but his story also highlighted another facet of today's intelligence world: the increasingly privatized national security sector, in which a high school dropout could bring in six figures while gaining access to state secrets. Over the last decade, firms like Booz Allen Hamilton, where Snowden worked for three months, have gobbled up nearly 60 cents out of every dollar the government spends on intelligence. A majority of top-secret security clearances now go to private contractors who provide services to the government at stepped up rates.

"I like to call Booz Allen the shadow [intelligence community]," Joan Dempsey, a vice president at the firm, said in 2004, as captured in Tim Shorrock's book, Spies for Hire. No kidding. Here's a look at our mushrooming intelligence contracting sector:





12,000: Number of Booz Allen Hamilton employees with top-secret clearances

483,263: Number of contractors with top-secret clearances

1.4 million: Number of public and private employees, total, with top-secret security clearances, as of FY 2012

7th: Where employees with top-secret clearances would rank, by population, if they were a single American city

1: Occupations, out of 35 analyzed by the Project On Government Oversight, in which privatization yielded statistically significant savings—groundskeepers

4.4 million: Number of private contractors serving the federal government in 1999

7.6 million: Number of private contractors serving the federal government 2005

1.8 million: Number of federal civil servants in 1999

1.8 million: Number of federal civil servants in 2005

70: Percentage of classified intelligence budget that goes to private contracts (as of 2007)

90: Percentage of intelligence contracts that are classified

1,931: Number of private firms working on counterterrorism, intelligence, or homeland security, according to the Washington Post

$1.3 billion: Booz Allen Hamilton's revenue from intelligence work during its most recent fiscal year, according to the New York Times

23: Percentage of the firm's overall revenue

98: Percentage of the firm's work that focuses on government contracts

Charts by Jaeah Lee